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Roads

Volume 438: debated on Monday 9 June 1947

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Selby Toll Bridge

28.

asked the Minister of Transport if he has now received the special report on the negotiations for the purchase of Selby Toll Bridge; and whether he has a statement to make.

I have received the special report for which I called, and am satisfied that there has been no avoidable delay on the part of my Department or on that of the Valuation Department. In view of the negotiations that are taking place, I do not think it would be in the public interest for me to make a statement at present.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how long these negotiations are likely to take?

No, Sir, not exactly. They are very complicated. As the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows, I am just as anxious as he is to expedite them.

Dismissed Roadmen, Cambridgeshire

35.

asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware that the Cambridgeshire County Council have dismissed 30 roadmen arising out of the reduction of expenditure on Class III roads that are in need of immediate repair, owing to damage caused by the severe winter and floods and are in a dangerous condition to the users of these roads; and if he will reconsider the matter, with a view of granting to the local authorities money from the Road Fund to keep these country roads in a decent condition.

I understand that a number of men engaged on the maintenance of Class III roads in Cambridgeshire have been dismissed. The council have since been informed that the amount of grant from the Road Fund for the normal maintenance of classified roads will be increased by £8,500, which, if they so desire, may be allocated entirely to Class III roads. In accordance with the arrangements outlined in my reply to the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor) on 19th May, my divisional road engineer is also discussing with the council how much additional money can be made available towards the cost of repairing damage to roads caused by frost, snow and flood.

Is the Minister aware that these roadmen have given very valuable service to the county council, and does he think it fair that councils should be compelled to dismiss hundreds of roadmen throughout the country owing to these drastic cuts in expenditure; and, further, is he aware that the motorists, through the Road Fund, provide the money for the upkeep of the roads? Will he look into the matter again, because it is certainly a serious one so far as agriculture is concerned?

I would like to remind my hon. Friend that the additional grant for Class III roads was only introduced last year, which is very recent indeed. I do not think that it can be argued that these dismissals are entirely due to that.

Will the Minister consider making additional grants to other county councils who are being compelled, owing to the drastic cuts, to reduce their staffs?

I have already indicated that the discussions taking place between my divisional road engineers and county surveyors are not limited to any particular county.

Will the right hon. Gentleman remember that one of the greatest causes of hardship is that these drastic cuts were made after the start of the financial year?

I regret that it was not possible to give longer notice, but, after all, the discussions with regard to estimates cover a fairly long period.

Road Fund (Administration Statistics)

36.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is now in a position to publish those statistics ordinarily appearing in the Annual Report on the Administration of the Road Fund which have been omitted during the war years but of which records have been maintained.

The information has been obtained so far as it is readily available, and is at present being collated.

Will this information be published in so far as the particulars are available to the Minister?

Yes, Sir, that is what I have tried to do, but many local authorities have not replied to the requests for information.

Driving Examiners (Overtime)

40.

asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware that his Department has instructed all driving and traffic examiners from 9th June to work overtime; that such a requirement, in some cases, will lead to severe strain; and if he will issue instructions that this order is not to be enforced where the examiner feels unable to carry out such orders.

In order to overtake the arrears of applications for tests, driving examiners have been instructed to work limited overtime, for which they will be paid, and I do not consider that an extra 1½ hours' work on five day a week for a fortnight at a time will unduly strain them. I cannot agree to leave it to an examiner's discretion whether he should carry out tests booked for him.